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St. George Island finally back on tap after almost a month without running water

City crew scrambling to find break in water lines
Anastasia Kashevarof
City Crews scrambling to find the break in the lines

After loss of pressure in the water lines, crew members scramble to find the cause.

Back on October 22nd, water pressure suddenly dropped, and the water was unfit to drink.

“It’s been pretty murky, It’s brown even boiling it, I don’t trust it to wash my dishes.”

Anastasia Kashevarof says supplies of bottled water went fast.

Some homes were unaffected, but most had to haul 5-gallon buckets of water from the public safety building to their homes to flush toilets and mop the floors.

As a working mom and a mother of two, it became difficult to keep up with it all.

“Trying to find your friend’s house that has a good supply of running water so I can borrow their shower to bathe my family.”

Tribes, Native corporations, and other groups donated bottled water, which helped. But as the days wore on, there was no relief in sight. The city crew still couldn’t pinpoint the leak. Mark Merculief, the mayor of St. George says, the source of the leak, remained a mystery until November 16th, when water engineers arrived to track it down.  

"We’ve narrowed it down to a break like a one-inch line to the old houses.”

So, what caused the break in the line? When the crew dug into the ground, they were shocked at what they found, a clean break in the pipe that was right on top of a huge rock.

Merculief began to wonder if the line was damaged in an earthquake that gave St. George a stiff jolt, just a few days before the water system failed.

“The way the break was, you couldn’t have a cleaner cut go through.  We thought, ‘Wow, it wouldn’t take much to break this with the amount of stress this was under.’”

It took a day to repair the line. But the problems aren’t over yet.

The Environmental Conservation Department has issued a boil water notice. Cindy Christian, a Drinking Water Program Manager for DEC says it takes time to lift an order.

“Anytime a water pipe is opened, we want to make sure it’s disinfected after its fixed. And so, they’ll be running chlorine through the system to disinfect the water lines, and they will be flushing that out, and then they will collect 3 samples and send it into the laboratory to be analyzed an as soon as we get three satisfactory samples, we will be able to lift the boil water notice as long as they maintain pressure.”

And while it may be a while for things to go completely back to normal, Anastasia Kashevarof says she feels grateful to the city crew and engineers for their hard work.

“I know it’s frustrating for everyone in the community, especially the City workers trying to resolve this issue.”

As for the mayor, he sees this incident as a learning experience.

“You got to know the ins and out of your systems here, and that’s a great way to learn it, and also to be able to in the future in meetings with whether it’s federal or state agencies to be able to explain situations like that.”

The exact cause of the water line failure may never be known, but this community of 35 people does know one thing – that challenges like this have a way of bringing people together.